I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the challenges faced by those that are leading our church today, especially the United Methodist Church in which I serve as a pastor. During this season of appointment making in our system I always wonder what goes on in the cabinet gathering as they look at churches and pastor that either want to have a change or they have determined need a change.
Years ago when I first started on my journey to become a faithful, effective and fruitful pastor my District Superintendent, Glenn Kohlhepp, challenged the pastors and churches of the Butler District to pray and work together to become what God wanted them to be. He said there were too many pastors waiting for that next great appointment that would use their ministry skills and pay them what they were worth and too many churches waiting for that next great pastor that would bring in those young families and meet all the ministry needs of the congregation. It was time to stop waiting and begin working together, praying for each other and becoming all they envisioned for their future and to make it happen. I think that was maybe the best advice I ever heard as a pastor and have tried to live that out in each of my appointments. As a superintendent he lived that out as well, striving to make sure each pastor and each church had the resources they needed to be all they could be. I was always amazed at how well he came to know his churches and the pastors of the District and was not afraid to encourage or hold us accountable. He was also never afraid to recognize his weaknesses or call on others when he needed them.
What would happen if the Bishop and cabinet began holding churches and pastors accountable for fulfilling the mission that is the mission of every United Methodist Church in the world, "making disciples for the transformation of the world?" What if we told every church that in 3 years they could not be spending more than 40% of their budget on pastoral support, were expected to have a mission budget looking beyond their walls that was equal to 40% of their annual budget, the expectation would be for them to take in new members on profession of faith equal to at least 15% of their membership with an equal number of baptisms and that all apportionments would be paid in full?
What would happen if every pastoral move was expected to be a parallel move? In other words, when we move we would move at a salary no more than we are currently making, membership would be similar and the only way to improve our situation was to grow the place we were at, including starting new communities of faith?
While the numbers I used were arbitrary and would need modification I think that we need to start looking in new directions for the church to come alive as only God can do. It would take providing training and support for churches and pastors and we would have to recognize that some churches would close, some pastors would go to other careers and it would cause havoc in many places. Would it be worth those costs if many churches began to catch a new vision for making disciples for Jesus Christ?
I look forward to working on goals like these in my churches that God has given me the honor of being their pastor.